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UFC Vegas 76 - New Blood: 56 wins among them, just three decisions

On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where I should really just learn to read Cyrillic at this point, we check out a trio of newbies with just three decision wins among 56 total victories.

LIVE! Stream UFC Vegas 80 On ESPN+

NEW SCHOOL VS. OLD SCHOOL LIGHTWEIGHT SHOWDOWN! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC APEX on Sat., Oct. 7, 2023, with surging 155-pound contender, Grant Dawson, taking on inimitable Octagon veteran, Bobby Green, in the ESPN+-streamed main event. In UFC Vegas 80’s co-main event, Joe Pyfer looks to continue his meteoric Middleweight rise at the expense of Abdul Razak Alhassan’s expense.

Don’t miss a single second of face-punching action!

Nursulton “Black” Ruziboev

Weight Class: Middleweight
Age: 29
Record: 34-8-2 (12 KO, 20 SUB)
Notable Victories: Ibrahim Mane, Artem Kazbanov

Born in Uzbekistan and fighting out of Philadelphia, Pa., Ruziboev enters the Octagon on the heels of eight consecutive first round finishes. The run includes a highlight-reel slam knockout of Ibrahim Mane and, most recently, a first round finish of Pavel Masalski in Feb. 2022.

He replaces Abdul Razak Alhassan on short notice.

Standard disclaimer: Ruziboev hasn’t seen a fight go past four minutes since 2019, so there’s only so much recent material to analyze.

Ruziboev fights out of Renzo Gracy Philly alongside Sean Brady and Pat Sabatini, but where those two specialize in airtight top control, Ruziboev is closer to teammate Jeremiah Wells in his desire to finish. He’s tall and lean for the division at 6’4,” firing quick jabs, loaded right hands, and lead-leg kicks from a distance. When the opportunity arises, he’ll take it to the mat with a single-leg or knee tap, then impatiently work his way through the guard until he finds either a submission or the opportunity to unload ground-and-pound.

Despite nearly 50 professional fights, though, his technique can’t quite match his aggression. He’s highly vulnerable to low kicks on the feet and throws his right hand with so much heat that he squares up and leaves himself open to takedowns. He’s quick to snatch a kimura when it hits the ground, but has an incredibly porous guard, often relying on letting opponents get to mount and then sweeping from there. That’s gotten him caught in numerous triangles, one of which led him to knockout Mane with the Rampage-Arona Special.

On top of that, he ran out of steam the last time he had to go to the second round, hurting Boris Miroshnichenko with an early right hand, but falling apart down the stretch in the face of Miroshnichenko’s grappling. While that was in 2019, he’s yet to prove that he’s fixed the issue.

I can’t really call Ruziboev a “glass cannon” when he hasn’t been stopped in nearly seven years. That said, he does seem to lack the technical base to bounce back when he can’t quickly overwhelm his opponent or snatch up an opportunistic finish. Hopefully the crew in Philly have tightened up his game in the last year; if not, he’s likely getting battered by the offbeat, but incredibly powerful, Brunno Ferreira.

Ivana Petrovic

Weight Class: Flyweight
Age: 29
Record: 6-0 (3 KO, 2 SUB)
Notable Victories: Ewelina Wozniak

Petrovic spent 16 months as an amateur before turning professional in 2021. She ultimately claimed the Ares FC Flyweight title 13 months later, then defended it with a submission finish of Ewelina Wozniak.

Petrovic’s strongest weapon is her ground game. Though she times her shots well, especially on reaction as her opponents step in, she boasts a strong clinch takedown arsenal that includes a dangerous Osoto-gari. Once on top, she patiently works her way to side control, goes knee-on-belly to take mount, then postures up and hammers home remarkably heavy punches and elbows. She’s equally happy to batter her opponents into submission or, if the opportunity presents itself, polish them off with a rear-naked choke or armbar.

Off her back, she’s skilled at using her impressive flexibility to threaten submissions or kick her way to her feet, though she’s eaten some heavy ground-and-pound before.

She seems to be addressing the complaints I had about her wrestling, namely a tendency to time her entries well but do a poor job of following through. I’d say it’s ready for the big show.

Her striking isn’t quite there yet, though it’s also improving She largely relies on stiff jabs and rapid-fire flurries of straight punches, which have gotten sharper over her last few fights. That said, she does seem to struggle with being physically bullied around the cage and, at least in the past, could occasionally try and load up on ugly left hands to try to punch her way out of trouble. She’s also been dropped hard a couple of times, once by ducking into a knee and the other by eating an elbow in the clinch, but showed impressive grit by recovering and going right back on the attack.

Petrovic is a solid addition to the roster overall and should continue to sharpen up over the next few years. I like her chances against debut foe Luana Carolina, who’s vulnerable enough to the clinch to allow Petrovic to work her preferred gameplan.

Her ARES bouts are on Fight Pass.

Westin Wilson

Weight Class: Featherweight
Age: 34
Record: 16-7 (5 KO, 11 SUB)
Notable Victories: None

Nearly a decade into his professional career, WIlson joins the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion in the midst of a 6-1 run. All of his victories in that span came via first-round submission, four of these in under two minutes apiece.

He steps in for Khusein Askhabov on less than two weeks’ notice.

Wilson trains alongside Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson at Upstate Karate, which shouldn’t come as a surprise when you see Wilson in action. Standing an impressive 6’1,” he employs a similar approach to his sensei, sending out quick lead-leg kicks and flurries of straight punches from a square, hands-low southpaw karate stance. Alongside the more esoteric and fanciful kicks, he can punt a leg with impressive venom and dish out powerful knees on the inside.

Where he pales in comparison to Thompson, however, is range management. The traditional karate approach, eschewing traditional hands-high defense and side-on stances for the sake of explosive in-and-out movement, only works when the practitioner is keenly aware of when they’re in the firing line. Wilson just isn’t; he kicks from too close and idles within his opponents’ punching distance, which allowed much shorter UFC veteran, Teruto Ishihara, to annihilate him with a lead left.

Wilson generally has a decent chin, but he’s not fast or powerful enough to win a firefight against capable strikers. He’ll only find success against those who give him too much respect and elect not to meet him head-on.

In a positive departure from Thompson, though, he’s actually a functional offensive grappler. Primarily utilizing a single-leg to get things to the ground, his noodly limbs give him a gnarly guillotine and rear naked choke, and though he’s not great at holding opponents down, he’s opportunistically dangerous in transition. Not world-beating stuff, as seen in his four submission defeats, but something his opponents will have to keep in mind.

Overall, while I don’t think Wilson is UFC’s worst recent signee when guys like Braxton Smith exist, he’s not big-show material. His lack of range management makes him fodder on the feet for skilled strikers and his sneaky submissions aren’t enough to compensate for his general sloppiness on the ground. His debut figures to go extremely poorly, as Joanderson Brito is aggressive and powerful enough to just bulldoze Wilson wherever he wants.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Vegas 76 fight card right here, starting with the ESPN/ESPN+ “Prelims” matches, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining main card balance (also on ESPN/ESPN+) at 7 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Vegas 76: “Strickland vs. Magomedov” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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